2016 Suzuki Boulevard C90T: Effortlessly Easy

Text: Florian Neuhauser • Photography: Christa Neuhauser, Suzuki

Suzuki’s top-of-the-line touring V-twin hasn’t changed much in the past few years, but it’s a solid platform for effortless roaming of backroads, with plenty of opportunity for customization. This model has been tested over the past year, mainly in the Southeast, with plenty of curves in the Appalachians, coastal roads, and sweltering heat and humidity.

When walking up to the bike, it appears hefty, but the low seat height and low center of gravity contribute to easy handling even in tight spaces like parking garages. The C90T is a classic touring cruiser that doesn’t offend. Non-motorcyclists often mistake it for another brand, but for enthusiasts it’s clear it’s not American. The stock exhaust is quieter and sounds a bit muffled, and overall there is a void of excessive vibrations. Of course, aftermarket options will let you make it as loud and shaky as you want, but for touring purposes its great factory setup makes it a viable option for a wide range of trips. 

Powertrain and Performance

The 1,462cc V-twin is designed for effortless and comfortable riding. The long-stroke engine delivers the most power and torque in the 1,000 to 1,600cc class, according to Suzuki, and I had no complaints whether touring solo or two up and fully loaded. Power came on smooth and predictable in every situation. With a large engine between the legs, one concern is always engine heat, especially in the Southeast where temperatures hover in the 90s on top of oppressing humidity. During my tours and test rides from June to September specifically, I encountered plenty of hot days, but radiating engine heat never caused problems. I’m 
no scientist, but it could be all the fancy coatings inside that help in this matter. 
For example, the aluminum-alloy cylinders are coated with nickel-phosphorus-silicon-carbide to reduce friction, while the pistons’ friction is reduced with a chrome-nitride coating of the upper compression ring and oil control ring. Reduced friction equals less heat, which leads to increased durability. Seems like a win-win! Regarding the noise level of the engine, it’s partly achieved through a rubber gasket between the cam cover and the cylinder head.

The transmission is also very user-friendly. Well-spaced five gears slip in easy. Through a clutch assist system, lever pull effort is reduced, but I noticed the back torque limiting system most during down shifts when it helped smooth them out. The toe-heel shifter is standard, and while it limits foot movement it adds convenience. Torque is evident when pulling away from a standstill in third gear without hesitation. Even during mountainous riding shifting seems optional.

Chassis and Handling

There’s nothing exotic about the frame, suspension, or brakes. They all work satisfactorily under most touring conditions. The steel-tube frame is rigid as it should be. During spirited riding over bumps, there’s almost no flex. 

Front forks with 5.1 inches of travel and a link-style shock in the rear do an admirable job of keeping the chassis planted, although I did feel like I bottomed out a few times. The single brake disc front and rear could be better. During most casual riding, stopping power is acceptable, but for emergency stops and precision braking I would like to see an improvement. There is no ABS either.

The wheelbase is almost 66 inches and on the longer side, yet it doesn’t seem to hamper handling in tight corners. The Appalachians are infamous for tight and unexpected radiuses, and the 800-pound Boulevard performed well. It has more ground clearance than some similar models, but lean angle is still compromised by the footboards—meaning too much spirited riding results in razor-sharp footboards.

My trusty passenger liked the relaxed seating position and seat padding, along with the ability to look over my shoulder even though she’s not the tallest. Rider and passenger backrests do not come standard, so to make my wife happy I added Suzuki’s backrest and luggage rack accessories. This greatly improved her comfort, and I’d recommend the addition at the time of purchase.

Features and Ergonomics

The large touring windshield provided excellent protection and did not cause any uncomfortable turbulence around the helmet. Sometimes, though, wind is what you need! After a sweltering ride, I switched out the stock shield with a National Cycle Universal Deflector Screen. During colder months, the big stock windshield got reinstalled.

Compared to other cruisers, the C90T requires a bit of a reach. A feet-forward position and wide handlebar that’s also quite forward suits average and taller riders best. While a low seat height might attract shorter riders, the reach will turn them away. 

With the classic styling, the instrument panel is on the tank, which requires you to look significantly down. The most crucial readout is the fuel gauge. On several occasions when traveling with a magnetic tankbag covering up the entire instrument panel, I almost ran out of gas because I couldn’t keep an eye on the gauge. The middle of the handlebar offers a great head-up mounting place for a GPS or smartphone for navigation purposes.

The saddlebags require tools to unmount and aren’t 100-percent waterproof. Most annoyingly, they always require a key to open. They provided enough storage for a week-long trip for one person. Two up required a bag on the luggage rack.

Flo’s Lowdown

Comparable models are the Honda Interstate and the Yamaha V Star 1300 Tourer, which comes with a quick-release windshield and passenger backrest standard. Overall, the effortless riding experience of the C90T contributes to fatigue-free days in the saddle. Great for two-up crossings of state lines or a weekend cruise. Mostly I was delighted by its unexpected performance in the curves.